Charleston Fire Dept. continues 9-day tribute to Charleston 9

Charleston Fire Dept. continues 9-day tribute to Charleston 9

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston Fire Department is honoring the nine firefighters lost to the Sofa Super Store Fire in West Ashley nearly 10 years ago.

Friday marks day one of a nine-day tribute to each of the lives lost.

Every day up until June 18, the fire department will commemorate a member killed in the tragic fire. Those posts will go up on the Charleston Fire Department's Facebook page.

Each of the tributes is written by another member of the department.

Friday's is in memory of Rodney "Brad" Baity and written by a battalion chief who reflects on times with Baity in the firehouse:

Saturday's memory was of Captain Louis Mulkey.

Sunday's is in memory of Firefighter Brandon Kenyon Thompson. It is written by Captain David Griffin.

Monday's is in memory of Firefighter James Early Drayton. It is written by Chief Kenny Jenkins.

Tuesday's is in memory of Engineer Michael J. French - "Frenchie." It is written by Battalion Chief Brian Brown.

Wednesday's is A tribute to Captain Theodore Michael (Mike) Benke. It is written by Battalion Chief Michael Hanuscin.

Thursday's is a tribute to Firefighter Melvin Champaign. It is written by Assistant Chief Joseph Roberts.

Friday's is a tribute to Captain William Hutchinson III (Billy). It is submitted by Assistant Chief Raymond Lloyd

Saturday's is a tribute to Engineer Mark Kelsey. It is submitted by Assistant Chief Joseph Roberts.

Each of the firefighters killed June 18, 2007, died within about 30 minutes of responding to the scene of the fire.

The victims were:

  • Engineer Bradford "Brad" Baity, of Engine 19
  • Capt. Mike Benke of Engine 16
  • Firefighter Melvin Champaign, of Engine 16
  • Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton, of Engine 19
  • Asst. Engineer Michael French, of Ladder 5
  • Capt. William Hutchinson, of Engine 19
  • Engineer Mark Kelsey, of Ladder 5
  • Capt. Louis Mulkey, of Engine 15
  • Firefighter Brandon Thompson, of Ladder 5.

At the memorial service for the men held four days later, an estimated 30,000 people attended, including firefighters from agencies across North America, including Alberta, Canada.

"As they entered that building, they walked into the pages of history of our community," then-Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said.

The City of Charleston later purchased the 2.5-acre site for $1.9 million. and the site was turned into a memorial park that opened two years after the tragedy.

The fire caused the greatest single loss of firefighters since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In addition to those killed, 18 other firefighters were hurt.

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